How To Start An Online Learning Program

Willie Perkinson, a digital sales and marketing strategist, explains the basics of launching an online learning program.

As a freshman in college, I was pretty proud to attend a lecture taught by a professor who had taught 12 years before that. But I wasn’t as proud as I should have been.

Despite the grade I had earned, I had entirely missed the point of the lecture, which was the importance of researching materials to figure out exactly what question is to be asked next. I learned a valuable lesson that would carry me through my academic career, but the lecture was a pretty long presentation. That would be fine if I were able to quote the lecture on my SAT question set the next day. But since I wasn’t even able to remember all the words, I was not able to do much more than follow along. And so the lessons on writing, research, and comprehension didn’t even hit home.

I am sure I don’t have the problem you are thinking about, of preparing for an upcoming test. No one is ever preparing for a test on the day of the exam. Or so everyone thinks. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat through a lecture prepared to lecture, but all I do is read the textbook, turn off the audio, and focus on remembering all the answers as quickly as possible.

Although teaching an online course is vastly different than teaching on a physical campus, especially as technology has continued to rise in the education space, it isn’t so different. When I teach a class, I follow the same rules as I would with an actual class. I have an outline of the information to be covered with an open question asking what questions should be asked next. I then make sure that I instruct my students so that they can go and do the research I assign them, and explain to them exactly what they did and should have done.

According to Prometric, a provider of test prep materials, 59% of all instructors offer online courses. Although the notion that an online course would change how we learn has been somewhat debunked, a 2016 study found that 66% of students who took online course study material received a grade of “C or higher.” If I teach an online course, I take the format of a classroom that students would attend in person, and I require my students to review and re-research questions that were covered.

Even though technology has made classes more accessible and efficient, it doesn’t mean you should take it for granted. I’m sure you have heard the old adage: as you become better at something, you will find even more ways to get better at it. That is not just true for students. As a learning tech veteran, I find myself constantly thinking of ways I can improve my content delivery, and I’m constantly learning how I can make myself smarter.

One last thing you should keep in mind is that only about 17% of students will attend your course from the start, which means it’s still important to help your students with what questions they have previously asked. Students tend to be taught through lectures, where the moment they ask a question that is not covered by a textbook is often the moment they learn the most. Take a moment to review your course and ask yourself a question about how to make it more user-friendly for your students, especially if they have already attended several offline courses and are a bit confused about the programming of your online course.

Once you get started teaching online, you will see the power of testing. While evaluating your work during the course will never be the same as you did on your own campus, you can test yourself at any time. You can also adjust to the changes as students switch in and out of your class, which can be a great test of your ability to adapt to changes. You might learn a lot by attempting to adapt to whatever the changes are, because you still have to adapt to the changing trends in education, too.

The good news is, online courses are now part of many people’s lives in some capacity. The good news is, online courses are more accessible than ever. And the good news is that some people who used to think they had no place for this are just beginning to discover their mission.

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